Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the northern hemisphere. It is a bacterial illness caused by a bacterium called a spirochete. Here in the United States the bacterium is called Borella burgdorferi. In Europe the bacterium Borelia afzelii, also causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease is spread by deer ticks bites that harbor the bacterium. The tick itself carries the bacterium in its stomach.
Once an infected tick bites a human and the individual contracts the disease it can cause abnormalities in the skin, joints, heart and nervous system. These abnormalities can last weeks and in some cases, symptoms can persist for years. Lyme disease is not contagious from person to person contact of an infected individual. Lyme disease has been reported in all 50 states, and is on the rise. More than 150,000 cases of the disease have been reported to the Centers for disease control (CDC ) since 1982.
Lyme disease made its first documented appearance in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut. Researchers reported that a group of children all living within close proximity of each other were all reportedly diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis. This unusual occurrence led researchers to discover the bacterial cause of the children’s condition, and led to the identification as being referred to as “Lyme disease” in 1982.
Lyme disease affects different areas of the body in different ways. The location of the tick bite itself usually, but not always, displays a reddish-spreading rash, this spreading rash is usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms. This rash can also resemble a “ bulls eye” with a ring of brighter redness. The redness will go away without treatment, in a short period of time. Subsequent diseases of the heart, joints and nervous system can then occur. The longer the disease is left undiagnosed, the more debilitating the effects can be. Lyme disease can lead to heart failure, paralysis, confusion, peripheral neuropathy and severe arthritis. The late phases of the disease are more difficult to diagnose and treat. Symptoms of the disease can sometimes last for years even after the disease itself is cured. In severe cases long term use of antibiotics and other drugs may be necessary. Treatment can also be challenging due to the diseases diverse manifestations.
Long term treatment of Lyme disease, and Chronic Lyme disease has become the source of much debate. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) has recommended against long tern treatment of Lyme disease with antibiotics. Some groups of patients and doctors endorse the long-term treatment of the disease with antibiotics even though there is medical evidence that opposes it. Some studies have indicated that the use of long term antibiotics is not only costly, but inefficient and potentially harmful. The overuse of antibiotics can cause drug-resistant conditions that are either difficult or impossible to treat. Patients suffering from chronic Lyme Disease are rallying for better drugs for long term sufferers and better testing to catch the disease earlier.
The best precaution against Lyme disease would be prevention and control. Since the deer tick often hides in shady moist ground covering at the larval and nymph stage, and then during the adult stage clings to weeds, grass and brush; keeping your lawn and garden free of the tick itself would be priority number one. Keeping your lawn and garden area tidy and clean, mowed and not overgrown is a good place to start. Once this has been done, a licensed professional can spray the residential environment. Another safeguard is to always check your clothing and body carefully after every outdoor exposure, especially during the hot weather months. Parents should check their children thoroughly. If you find a tick, don’t panic. If possible put the tick in a vial or jar of alcohol to kill it. If you do find a tick attached to your skin, remove it properly without jerking or twisting the tick.. Keep in mind that studies of the deer tick show that they begin transmission of the disease itself 36-48 hours following attachment. The sooner the tick is removed your chances of contracting the disease are greatly reduced. Clean the bite area with disinfectant, Watch the area for the appearance of a rash (this usually takes between 3-30 days) and pay close attention to any flu-like symptoms. Contact a physician immediately at the onset of either a rash or if you begin to feel badly after the bite. Lyme disease can be easier to treat if detected early.